Our visit of Accra and with stakeholders continues. After our first day, we went on and met a couple of very interesting people.
The Tuesday started with a meeting with three representatives from a student association of the Ghana Telecom University College. The university has a few student associations focusing on different topics. The one we met is called TESA (TEchnology Students Association) and as its name tells, is focused on technology. Not all students of the world are so forward thinking and pro-active. The three people we met, including the president Ebenezer Kwaku Ofori Atiapa, contacted us after reading our blog posts on the launch of the project. They understand clearly the potential of mobile technologies for the future, and the added-value for their members. Very impressive.
We then meet with Kafui Prebbie from iVillage. I knew Kafui from a past EU project (DigitalWorld Forum) on which we worked together. We had a very fruitful discussion about who we should target, how to outreach to potential entrepreneurs that are out of the university system (e.g. public competition), how to build a local community focused on mobile content and services, and what are the barriers and potential incentives for entrepreneurs to jump on our targeted training, and on the mobile ICT wave.
The third meeting of the day was with Nii Okai, a freelance developer, with mobile competencies and experience. Nii gave us a good overview of existing local ICT-related networks (Linux group, Google group, etc.), and challenges he faced as an individual to build and deliver mobile services. We then visited the Ghana Telecom University College (GTUC) and met its president, Dr. Dakwa who gave us an overview of the university as well as expressed his interests in the initiative, and the interest of GTUC to include mobile training in its student and professional courses.
Finally, we met with Kofi Worlanyo, CEO of Gasscomm, the Ghana Association of Software and IT Services Companies who presented his association, and the list of his member who are active in the mobile content and applications front. This gave us a good overview of the Accra ICT business landscape, and enabled us to arrange a set of meetings with the most relevant players. The day ended with our participation to the ISOC Ghana meeting which gathered around 30 people. I had the opportunity to present our project, and we got feedback from the different participants pointing the most recurrent points: skill gaps, hard access to shortcodes, etc. (the complete output and findings of the visit will be gathered in a public report in the next few weeks).
That was a full day starting meeting at around 8am and returning to the hotel at around 10pm!
Wednesday was not more relaxing! Most of the day was focused on meeting with industry. We started with Bsystems, then Network Computer System (NCS) ran by our close friend Dr Nii Quaynor, who was instrumental in the organization of the week. We then met with Ashesi University, which is a private university considered by most of the people we met as one of the top ones in IT training. Ashesi already has a course on mobile programming based on the MIT EPROM content and a dozen of students are following it. Ashesi is also looking at launching a Mobile Monday Accra. This would nicely fit with our work. They are also interested to expand their current courses to integrate more technologies and mobile business aspects.
In the afternoon, we continued our tour of IT companies, meeting with Sisco (Somuah Information Systems) a company offering mobile solutions to their customers, Rancard, the leading local mobile aggregator, and Soft Tribes.
All these meetings were critical for us to capture the challenges and issues IT companies are facing when investing in mobile content and applications. Almost none of them are currently focusing on end-user products, but only on customer solutions (B2B instead of B2C). The case of Rancard is different. They are by far those who understands best the mobile market, and the opportunities that are currently missed. While they don’t have entrepreneurs as part of their current customers, they believe that the market can expand in that direction.
Like Tuesday, the last meeting ended up at 9pm, and we were back at the hotel, for a final dinner meeting with Yaovi Atohoum, working for the Association of African University located in Accra. yet another full day!